Super Best Audio Friends

The evolution of the original irreverent and irrelevant and non-authoritative site for headphone measurements, i.e. frequency response graphs, CSD waterfall plots, subjective gear reviews. Too objective for subjectivists; too subjective for objectivists

The Zen Pro is extremely neutral from bass to treble, with a beautiful upfront midrange with excellent tonality that’s not recessed at all while at the same time not having any bumps or peaks in the upper mids. They have no peaks anywhere in the spectrum from the upper mids to treble. The lower midrange is flat too, they don’t sound thin at all, very natural. Very flat. They remind me of the Gaudio Nar in their FR. They also have no resonance that I can hear anywhere in the spectrum.


This is a feat in itself especially for an electromagnetic driver iem, but at the same time, they have excellent technicalities. They’re fast, very resolving, dynamic and have a huge soundstage. Not quite as expansive as the CA Solaris but very close.
This thread is being created for the upcoming Walnut loaner tour so that participants will have a space to leave impressions, and hopefully to get a conversation going about this DAC I quite like, but that hardly anyone has heard.


I purchased a Walnut X.1 and liked it enough that I asked Tom (at Beezar, he builds these) to make me another one for another system. He mentioned he could put together one with amorphous transformers called X.3, and I happily paid him a deposit.

Before Walnut I had never heard something I have come to call the Schiit Smear. I had a Gungnir Multibit A1 and a Bifrost 2 in house when Walnut X.1 arrived, and for the first time they both had a sort of smear to them. Once I'd heard it, I didn't like it. Unfortunately for me, this is the kind of thing I can't un-hear. The clarity Walnut offers is something I very much enjoy.
It's been some time since I've sat down to review anything. That was until last week when my friend Hugo from indiehifi called me to tell me he is bringing me Holo May kte3, Raal sr1a, requisite, the meze elite and some streamers for me to listen too. Hugo is cool and just wants to know my thoughts with no pressure to buy.


May was tested mostly using NOS with HQ player via usb using golden ones recommended settings which push 44.1khz to 1.411mhz and 48khz to 1.5mhz doing the OS upstream of the DAC.

I tried May for a few days without the HQ settings and it lacked top end air, it was a tad harsh in the upper octaves and becomes fatiguing (with headphones/XLR*), bass is also a bit looser, everything is just not as polished as the HQplayer version which is just a much more pleasant and technically impressive experience.
I was surprised to see quite a bit of interest in this amp so I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts and experiences on the build, as well as sound impressions. A review is also in the works but I think it’s best to give things some more settling time while also allowing the “new toy syndrome” to wear off.


The TU-8900 is Elekit’s latest model and uses directly heated triodes (DHTs) instead of pentodes like its predecessor. While most amps of this design tend to be built around one type of DHT, the 8900 has a unique auto detect circuitry that can recognize either 2A3 or 300B tubes. These power tubes are driven by either two 12AU7 or 12BH7 (my preference) and doesn’t require any tubes for rectification as this is accomplished via diodes.

My first Elekit build was the TU-8800 over a year back. Before this, I hadn’t been much of a DIY guy and always hated soldering back in engineering school. However, cabin fever has a way of making you reconsider options and I soon found myself staring at a kit with a soldering iron in hand.
A fellow poster on Head-Fi pointed out that I hadn’t posted a review of my Abyss Headphones AB1266 Phi TC. I hadn’t realized, as I have written reviews of the original 1266, and the Phi version. However, both those reviews were written before starting this blog, so I thought why not do a review of my current pair, the TC’s.

There are 4 official versions of the AB1266. The AB1266, the AB1266 Phi, The AB1266 Phi CC, and finally, the AB1266 Phi TC. The 1266 Phi was a driver upgrade over the originals. The Phi CC was a upgrade of the finish to a ceramic coating, and new ear pads (not a driver change,) and the Phi TC is another fully new driver. I have personally owned the original AB1266, the AB1266 Phi, and the AB1266 Phi TC. I also owned the Diana Phi for a long period for good measure also. For the rest of this review, I’ll just refer to the Phi TC, as the TC’s, as the name is a bit long.


Abyss Headphones are made entirely in the USA, and are the best built headphones I have personally come across, perhaps tied with the Meze Empyrean in terms of build quality. The design of the AB1266 models is a bit polarizing, with some loving, and some hating it. Abyss has refined the design over the years it has been available, but it is largely the same as it was when it was originally released.
Before I say more, I should mention that the iFi GO blu sounds fricking great as long as we are using efficient IEMs and headphones. I tried a Sennheiser HD600 via the balanced out but presentation was one the soft side. However, I would expect the HD660S, HD560S, HD558 do do well. Personally, I been using Grados with the F pads and the Oriolus Isabellae IEMs for the past few days, obtaining excellent results.

Yes, the iFi Go blu is tiny.

The sound of the iFi GO reminds me of the first A&K players which used the Wolfson DA chips. This was before A&K went to Cirrus which IMO were more boring sounding in units at x4-10 the price. Despite Wolfson based DACs having the most varied sound signature compared to DAC using other chips, I've always liked the Wolfson. I've owned the AMB Gamma 2 and PS Audio Perfectwave 1 and 2. Except here's the problem: the Go blu uses a Cirrus logic. This left me puzzled, until I realized that Cirrus had purchased Wolfson many years ago. I'm betting the Cirrus chip used in this thing is based on a older Wolfson design if not recycled outright. I'll leave the rest of you to do the investigation. I have no idea what part is used in the GO blu.
Audeze made a ribbon. Oh my, the clouds in sky parted. God reached down his hand. I was touched by the hand of God! Nope. However, the LCD-R more than holds its own. It's solid offering which is a bit of break from their standard lineup. And dare I say it: it's also quite a steal. How could $2500 be a steal you may wonder. Well, the package comes with the Jotunheim A, an amplifier which was specifically made for the super low impedance load of the LCD-R which is around 2.35-ohms. I mean all of you guys in the market for this kind of product would already cough up $1k minimum for an amp right? And we're talking about a special amp too.

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I have a big head. Note maximum extension. I do like to wear the LCD-R low and forward.

While the LCD-R is super sensitive to voltage, requiring barely any potential to move that ribbon, the LCD-R loves that massive firehouse sized stream of electrons. Unfortunately your amp is more than likely a garden hose. At best we'll get increased distortion. At worst, the output devices will catch on fire. Word of warning: if you want to try it on your regular heads amps, monitor temperatures with with a FLIR. You will also need to re-terminate because the LCD-R uses the SR1A's style of termination (female 4-pin XLR). Another option I think could work would be to add a resistor in series because of the LCD-R's sensitivity. That would result in effectively higher output impedance and also throw most of the power from the amp away into heat.
This is a low-end BA driver IEM, but these distortion characteristics carry throughout all BA type drivers. Higher end BA drivers or perhaps better implementations will have lower distortion, but the kind of distortion, the harmonic pattern, stays the same. What I've been below is provide a 1kHz signal at four different levels in increments of 10db
  1. Pervasive high 3rd order distortion, regardless of sound level. It sticks our like a sort thumb and never goes away, even at the softest levels. The BA sound is likely killing you softly with this song.
  2. At moderate higher levels, we see an increase in all harmonics which is typical, but it's the odd order harmonics that really rise. That's the 3rd and the 5th.
I thought about adding this review to the regular Moondrop thread but after reading the following review, you'll probably understand why I started an independent thread. I was so inspired, I actually took my own pictures, which I haven't done in a long time. Also note I've not provided my normal measurements, as my StudioSix AudioTools for iOS continues to produce unexplained bass rolloff on all in-ears. I need download and learn to use REW on my Mac.

TLDR: Just go buy the Kato and don’t look back; my new defacto recommendation

The IEM world is a constantly evolving, new model dropping, never-ending carousel that seems to move faster and faster. If one wants to stay relevant, it seems one must keep up with the Joneses, so don’t blink! Moondrop is back with a new model named Kato. Kato is an acronym which stands for KXXS Advanced Technology Optimized. Moondrop, in its marketing, has used the word ‘flagship’ in conjunction with Kato. Since $190 is a far cry from their TOTL models, I’m going to take this to mean this model is meant to be serious step up from the previous models this one replaces in the Kanas Pro, KXXS and KXXX.
I was hoping the G111 would sound more like the V281/280 rather than V200. Unfortunately, it sounds more like the V200. The G111 doesn't even do headstage well. Well, this depends upon your definition. The G111 has a wide wide headstage. It's got a holographic effect as if there was some sort of DSP. Unfortunately, this holographic effect only spans in one dimension, from left to right. The headstage sits on a plane right at my ears. There is zero front to back layering. There isn't much separate either. Imaging is diffuse on that one plane. And because the plane is flat, there is no sense of openness. However, those who really love a wide headstage will find themselves happy. While I do not expect headstage to sound anything like soundstage (speakers), I at least would like headstage to have some depth and a degree of openness. I ain't getting either.

I had a much longer review of the Lake People G109A (the 2016 [Mass]Drop special edition of the G109S commemorating Lake People's 30th anniversary) with glamour shots and all prepared but somehow contrived to lose it. This is probably for the better because I can be a lot more neutral and offhanded about the thing, haha.

Sources used: Micro iDSD (as a DAC) and Bifrost Multibit A1
Other amps: Massdrop/Eddie Current ZDT Jr (RIP), Garage1217 Sunrise III.
Headphones paired: Klipsch HP-3, Fostex TH-X00 Ebony, Beyerdynamic DT880[250] w/ felt disc mod, Sennheiser HD600/HD650/HD800 (w/ Anax mods), HiFiMAN HE-4XX, Meze 99 Classics.

Full disclosure, this amp was loaned to me by the same friend that got me back into audio about half a decade ago, back when I was under the blissful assumption I'd be happy stuck in entry-fi, which was the AKG K550 straight out of whatever phone I had at the time. He didn't mind letting me keep it indefinitely since he has a Senn HDVD800 that he prefers to the discrete amp, which probably says a lot about the G109A, really, price of the Sennheiser AIO notwithstanding.

Personally, I don't hate the G109A; I just think it's pricey for what you get. I use this amp for measurements since it's leagues quieter than the Sunrise III even with the benefit of running it through a LPS, and the channel separation somehow seems much better than on the Sunrise or (from my notes) ZDT Jr.— hard-panned items seem angled further to the side, and sonic images are reasonably large, almost as much so as on the ZDT Jr. Hell, someone on a far more measurements-oriented site gave this amp a glowing review. This makes me feel kinda icky about it but affirms that it's good for measurements and pretty typical of solid state performance.... kinda.
Man with one meter always knows the reading, man with two or more less certain.

Laboratory work requires well specified, calibrated devices. Fluke 62 max plus is an example for non contact infrared thermometers. However, for DIY and hobbyist use lower cost devices allow those on a budget to make thermal measurements over a qualified operating range. This led to pondering the differences between standards such as Fluke and less expensive, less well known IR thermometers.

Ice bath calibration
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